U.S. em­bassy the least of Is­rael’s con­cerns, panel told

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - News - SHLOMO KAPUSTIN SPE­CIAL TO THE CJN

Is­rael will face more se­ri­ous con­cerns dur­ing the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion than the place­ment of the U.S. em­bassy, a Washington-based pun­dit told a panel at Beth Tik­vah Syn­a­gogue.

“I think there will be war with Hezbol­lah in the next four years,” said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies. “The Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity is ob­sessed with Hezbol­lah right now. Hezbol­lah is the No. 1 strate­gic threat, even more than Iran in gen­eral, even though Hezbol­lah is con­trolled by Iran’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards.

“Get ready for the Third Le­banon War… It’s go­ing to be a bru­tal war, and if you thought Is­rael was un­der at­tack by the international com­mu­nity in the last Le­banon war or the Gaza war, you ain’t seen noth­ing yet. The only way to neu­tral­ize Hezbol­lah will be with a lot of civil­ian deaths. It’s un­avoid­able be­cause of where Hezbol­lah has hid­den its weapons.”

Dubowitz teamed with fel­low an­a­lyst Michael Do­ran of the Hud­son In­sti­tute to cri­tique for­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s for­eign pol­icy record and look ahead to U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. Their Jan. 15 panel dis­cus­sion, “Is­rael, Iran, and the Amer­i­can Pres­i­dency” was mod­er­ated by Beth Tik­vah’s spir­i­tual leader, Rabbi Jar­rod Grover.

Spon­sored by Rob and Tracey Baruch, the evening was the first stage of their son Aden’s bar mitz­vah cel­e­bra­tion. Money raised from the event – they hope to reach $5,000 – will fund wa­ter back­packs the fam­ily will present to sol­diers dur­ing a trip to Is­rael this sum­mer. Aden will cel­e­brate his bar mitz­vah in March.

Trump has sown con­fu­sion with state­ments that con­tra­dict both his own cab­i­net nom­i­nees’ opin­ions and es­tab­lished U.S. bi­par­ti­san prin­ci­ples. But Do­ran, a Mid­dle East ex­pert, and Dubowitz, a for­mer Toron­to­nian who stud­ies Ira­nian ter­ror fund­ing, think the pan­de­mo­nium could re­store Amer­i­can de­ter­rence that was ab­sent un­der Obama’s more me­thod­i­cal style.

“[Trump] is prac­tic­ing FUD – fear, un­cer­tainty and doubt,” said Dubowitz. “The Ira­ni­ans, the Rus­sians, the Chi­nese, Amer­ica’s ad­ver­saries, can’t read Don­ald Trump from hour to hour, from tweet to tweet.”

De­spite the con­fu­sion, Do­ran pre­dicted Trump will keep his cam­paign prom­ise to move the U.S. em­bassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“There will be some noise, maybe some vi­o­lence when we move the em­bassy,” he said. “But it will die down. It’s re­ally a non­is­sue – it’s [likely to be] in west Jerusalem [which is ex­pected to re­main un­der Is­raeli con­trol in any fi­nal sta­tus agree­ment].”

Do­ran is as pes­simistic about peace as he was when he served as a se­nior di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil un­der for­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

“There won’t be an Is­raeli-pales­tinian agree­ment in the next eight years,” Do­ran said. “The two sides are too far apart on ev­ery is­sue… No amount of Amer­i­can el­bow grease is go­ing to make it hap­pen.”

Trump en­ters of­fice with a pro-is­rael rep­u­ta­tion bur­nished by the se­lec­tion of pro-set­tler David Fried­man as U.S. am­bas­sador to Is­rael. Trump’s daugh­ter, Ivanka con­verted to Ju­daism, and Trump has said he will ap­point her hus­band, Jared Kush­ner, as a spe­cial ad­viser to ne­go­ti­ate peace in the Mid­dle East.

“I think he maybe be­lieves that he can solve the con­flict,” Dubowitz said of Trump. “It will be pre­sented as he is the most pro-is­rael pres­i­dent ever, and Kush­ner is Jewish and ob­vi­ously pro-is­rael. But then if it back­fires, Trump might take it per­son­ally. Is­rael has to be very care­ful… it could cre­ate fric­tion with Is­rael that is both un­ex­pected and dele­te­ri­ous.”

Obama and Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu had a prickly re­la­tion­ship, high­lighted by dis­agree­ment over the Iran nu­clear deal. Trump has said he plans to rip up the agree­ment.

Dubowitz, who con­sid­ers Iran the great­est threat to U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity, ad­vised Trump to use any lever­age it pro­vides un­til a bet­ter one can be ne­go­ti­ated.

“My ad­vice would be zero tol­er­ance for Ira­nian vi­o­la­tions of the deal,” he said. “The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has cre­ated an im­pres­sion in Iran that we’re a pa­per tiger. The first vi­o­la­tion that comes down, hit them hard with sanc­tions.”

Mark Dubowitz

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